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Breakthrough Engine Technology Turns the “Gasoline-Ethanol Equation” Upside Down

Alternative-fuels like bio-diesel (from algae) and ethanol/methanol (cellulosic ethanol)  would allow us to quickly displace a great quantity of petroleum while continuing to utilize our existing distribution infrastructure.

Ethanol-fuel vehicles have existed for decades, and have been used with great success in sugar-cane ethanol rich Brazil since the 1980’s. Known as “Flex-Fuel” this technology allows a greater combination of ethanol mixed with gasoline (up to 85% ethanol) to be used safely in a standard internal combustion engine, while adding as little as $100 to the cost per vehicle in upgraded fuel system parts. (The current estimate is that there are approx. 7.5 million Flex-Fuel vehicles on American roads today… you may be driving a Flex-Fuel vehicle and not know it.)

One of the biggest problems with Flex-Fuel and ethanol in general is the “decrease in MPG” blamed on ethanol “containing less energy” than an equal quantity of gasoline. You’ll suffer a loss in MPG (but a substantial gain in MPGG) by using ethanol-blends in Flex-Fuel engines because gasoline engines are not designed to take advantage of one of the particular strengths of alcohol-blended fuels – tolerance for higher compression ratio.

Engines designed to be fueled with higher-octane alcohol blends are designed with higher compression ratios, able to squeeze more energy out of the fuel, improving efficiency and producing a greater amount of power. Ricardo recently announced they have developed an engine that takes advantage of the physics, and have developed an ethanol-fueled engine with superior efficiencies…

Ricardo says this engine, which it dubbed the Ethanol Boost Direct Injection engine, or EBDI, is tuned to make the most out of ethanol’s properties where it has an edge on other fuels. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than diesel or gas, so it’s more likely to ignite at just the right point in the engine’s combustion cycle. Diesel and gasoline can sometimes ignite earlier or later than intended, causing knocking noises in the engine. Automakers compensate with knock detection systems, but those can cut an engine’s efficiency.

Ricardo will be testing this new engine in a heavy-duty GMC truck, expecting an 18% improvement in efficiency with the new ethanol-powered engine over the stock gasoline engine.

The engine runs best on a blend with gasoline that is 30% to 50% ethanol, but, Ricardo says, can run on anything from all gas to all ethanol. Ricardo is bringing a GMC Sierra 3500HD pickup to the Washington, D.C., auto show this week that will be outfitted with its V-6 ethanol engine. On gas, it says, the GMC truck gets about 12.7 miles per gallon. On all ethanol, it would get about 12.1 mpg, the company says. But with an optimum blend, it says the engine could get 15 mpg.

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5 Responses to “Breakthrough Engine Technology Turns the “Gasoline-Ethanol Equation” Upside Down”

  1. Bob Brooks on March 29th, 2010 10:49 AM

    What is status of heated fuel injection combined with perhaps 16:1 C/R for gasoline and/or alcohol
    fuel at very lean, high EGR conditions?

  2. Michael on March 29th, 2010 4:53 PM

    Good question Bob… I’m not really sure. Maybe one of our readers has some insight.

  3. Bill_USA on June 8th, 2010 6:25 PM

    THis is interesting but why not mention the Ethanol Boosting Systems ethanol enabled Direct Injection engine that gets 30% better mpg using only about 5% ethanol, and 95% gas. The cost is about $1,000 to $1,600 (about 1/3rd to 1/4th that of a hybrid). This means much more rapid adoption by the public.

    This engine is co-owned by Ford and they have sold it in their high-end Lincoln’s (running on gas only). Ford says they can get another 10% increase in mpg using ethanol.

    If every car on the road was using this engine we could get a 23% reduction in fuel consumption with a volume of ethanol equalling 5% of the total fuel supply.

    Google “ethanol boosting systems”

  4. Robert-USA on November 20th, 2010 12:23 PM

    This is a sad joke…
    all they are admitting …
    is that they never “designed’ any engines to use ethanol blends correctly.
    They did…in 1935…and before then.
    A new field of study….new technology …I invented
    per patent office…improves thermodynamics to such efficienices…new scales are required…
    primary fuel is E85…
    Drop by sometime.

  5. jim sadler on February 25th, 2012 9:51 PM

    The very reason that ethanol is used in racing engines is that it has about half the energy of gasoline. By doubling the quantity required because of the use of alcohol one gets great evaporation cooling from alcohol and the engine can be spun faster without knock or frying the valves. The catch is that one must us two gallons of alcohol to replace one gallon of gasoline.
    Alcohol is also very dangerous and an alcohol fire can be invisible and it is also very hard to keep atmospheric moisture from being so readily absorbed by the alcohol.
    Back in the dawn of engine building farm tractors were often run on alcohol simply because corn was easy to come by on the farm and people tended to run stills to make their own whiskey anyway. When we are able to convert weeds and rubbish into alcohol then will be the time to consider it as viable for cars and trucks.

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